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Scavengers of misfortune

TACLOBAN (SE): While reports abound about shoddy reconstruction work being done by government agencies and the snail’s pace progress of its rehousing projects, a major fact that has been swept under the carpet, or maybe under the water, is the actual number of people who died during Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.

A small group supported by the mayor of Tacloban, Leyte, Alfred Romualdez, that has been combing the waters of Cancabato Bay near Tacloban, has discovered hundreds of cars that were swept out to sea when the giant waves hit the low-lying coast.

Franciscan Father Robert Reyes pointed out that the intriguing thing about the vehicles is that they have been completely stripped.

“The tyres have been removed,” he said, “and any salvageable engine parts have already been taken from them as well.”

He added, “Local fisherfolk told us that in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon they could hear powerful diesel engines throbbing in the middle of the night. They added that people were diving from the boats, but because they were not friendly, the fishing people were hesitant to go close.”

The scavengers would have to be quick in order to ensure that the body and engine parts did not get badly affected or corroded by the salt water.

The tyres do not keep their interior strength for long if they are submerged under water for a lengthy period of time.

The fishing people also told the group that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands of skeletons lying at the bottom of the ocean.

Father Reyes said that one told him, “The water is so clear, that on a good day you can see them clearly.”

He said they told him that they are lying on top of each other and in some places completely cover the floor of the bay.

The group has retrieved some of the cars and had them brought ashore. It has also retrieved some skeletons, which have been examined by the Tacloban Health Office to see what they can learn from them.

Father Reyes said that he is amazed that people will sink to any depth to profiteer from the misfortune of others.

“Money retrieved from the sale of any of the parts really belongs to the survivors, not to those who pirate property that they do not own,” he reflected sadly.


But the Franciscan priest, who is better known in The Philippines as the Running Priest, said that the really sad thing is that the government does not seem to be interested in the skeletons lying at the bottom of the bay, as they may well give a better indication of exactly how many people really did die during the typhoon.

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